The importance of interdisciplinary research in accelerating the progress and commercialization of science is widely recognized, yet little is known about how academic research self-organizes towards interdisciplinarity. In this paper, we therefore explore the micro-level behavior of researchers as they venture into a promising space for interdisciplinary research, namely translational research—a bridge between basic and applied biomedical research. More specifically, we ask (1) whether the researchers who choose to engage in translational research have a strong scientific record, (2) how interdisciplinary research spanning basic and applied research influences the output of academic research, and (3) how different disciplinary distance in interdisciplinary research contributes to reputational benefits of researchers. We find that for some types of collaboration, interdisciplinarity results in more highly cited research, while in others it is not, and look for explanations for this difference. Our results show that translational research draws higher citations when it involves university researchers from the most basic end of the disciplinary spectrum, and when its issues are directed at basic (rather than applied) research.